If you live in a major U.S. city, you’ve probably seen hordes of electric scooters lining sidewalks and streets. These tiny rental vehicles are extremely popular with pedestrians — and for good reason! They’re fast, cheap, easy to ride, and help reduce carbon emissions compared to cars and buses.
On the flip side, e-scooters are attracting their fair share of controversy from healthcare advocates. They’re seeing a rapid spike in emergency room visits since rental scooters burst onto the scene — and the numbers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Between bone fractures and concussions, the uptick in accidents is causing alarm in hospitals across the nation. In fact, the unexpected rise in scooter-related accidents has forced the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step in and weight their opinion — and riders may not like what they’re hearing.
What are the risks of riding electric scooters?
Rental scooters are big business in the ride-sharing industry. Uber and Lyft, the heavyweights of the field, both operate scooter platforms along with various Silicon Valley competitors. They can be left anywhere and only require a smartphone to activate. The rider is then free to cruise around at their leisure to wherever they need to go. A very cool idea — in theory.
Sadly, the reality is people are misusing the service. According to a study by the CDC, less than 1% of riders wear helmets. Nearly half of all injuries sustained by e-scooter riders are head injuries, making them hot spots for concussions and brain damage.
What’s worse, companies making these scooters don’t seem too concerned with rider safety. Bird, a major e-scooter startup, was offering free helmets for riders previously, but the page to order has since been removed for unknown reasons.
Nearly all of these companies provide a section on their website recommending helmet use, but without much detail beyond that. This is likely due to how difficult mandatory helmets would be to enforce by the companies.
How can you stay safe when riding an e-scooter?
Despite how simple these scooters appear to be, it’s important to remember that they’re still motorized vehicles. E-scooters are capable of speeds between 15-20 miles per hour, which is faster than an average person sprinting at full speed. Athletes like football players have severely injured themselves in falls after running at speeds slower than that!
E-scooters are not toys, and should command the same respect as a bike or moped. Both of those vehicles require helmets for safe use, and riders who ignore this basic fact often pay for their mistake with their health.
If you decide to take a trip on an e-scooter, make sure to bring a helmet with you in a backpack or bag. Always be aware of traffic, and avoid riding in the center of a driving lane if you can. Sidewalks and bike lanes offer greater protection and smoother surfaces in the event that you fall.
Head injuries are nothing to laugh at. Even if a bump on the head seems minor, the effects on your brain can take years to fully surface. Unlike our kidneys or lungs, we only have one brain. Treat it well and it will last your whole life.